On 25 April, 2016 Australia and New Zealand celebrated ANZAC Day joint war and conflict commemorations, with a special emphasis on the celebration of the Australian involvement in the Vietnam Veterans 50th Anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan, in which 108 Australian troops held off more than 1,500 Viet Cong soldiers during this conflict. In recognition of their efforts; Vietnam War veterans led Melbourne’s ANZAC Day march for the first time; as thousands of people lined the streets to pay their respects to those who served in the Defence forces.
Australia became involved in the war in Vietnam in an attempt to halt the surge of Communism. Initially, Australia sent a team of military advisers as part of a Tour of Duty. By 1965, it included combat troops of both regular soldiers and conscripts.
- The Vietnam War became a complex and brutal war where many civilians died and 521 Australian lives were lost.
The silk jacket (featured above) is part of the Australian War Memorial display in Canberra, which commemorates Australia’s interaction in the Vietnam War. It is on display in the Main Building in the “Conflicts 1945 to Today” area. The embroidered souvenir jacket, is made from cotton, silk and aluminium and displays on the back of the jacket, a map which includes the outline of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. Its upper sleeves are embroidered with a Dragon, whilst the front features an embroidered Tiger head and good luck symbol. The jacket is lined with white silk and has a zip closure.
- It was originally purchased as a souvenir at a street stall in the Saigon area by national serviceman 2784336 Signalman Stuart Lindsay Weller, 104 Signal Squadron. Born 12 August 1945, Weller served in Vietnam from 2 May 1967 until 30 March 1968, based at Nui Dat.
- Weller recalls being on leave in Saigon and spotting a small street stall which sold this jacket with variations of the name on the reverse (Vung Tau, Saigon, Vietnam). As there were no ‘Saigon’ versions left, he purchased the Vung Tau one instead, as he had visited the Badcoe Club at Back Beach, near Vung Tau.
The inscription on the jacket reads:”When I die I’ll go to Heaven, Because I’ve spent my time in Hell“. It is followed by further inscriptions stating: Vung Tau. 1967-68.
There are many songs and anthems which depict emotions from this era. One popular one is from the Robin Williams movie which includes his eponymous radio catch phrase of “Good Morning Vietnam”. This movie was seen through the eyes of the U.S. contribution to the Vietnam war-front. However, there have also been many other movies and mini-series involving content from the Vietnam conflict, which make use of popular music of the era, such as the following take from the song We Gotta Get Out of This Place“… by The Animals.
…”If its the last thing we ever do, We gotta get out of this place, ‘Cause girl, there’s a better life For me and you.”
“Is It Art?”